Opinion: Students can save Twitter

Users await the fall of Twitter under Elon Musk. But students could be the solution.


Aaliya Luthra

Twitter needs help from students to save the platform. (Illustration by Aaliya Luthra)

Alexandra Cohen, Opinion Editor

Billionaire Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion — something that would be hilarious as a “Saturday Night Live” sketch, but is not funny in real life. Since his purchase of the platform on Oct. 28, Musk has fired executives, issued layoffs, and tried to change the way the company and social media app runs. He restructured and then paused Twitter Blue, a program that allows any user to pay $7.99 per month for verification, and would require those who were previously verified to pay monthly.

With Musk as CEO, Twitter has been nothing short of an absolute shitshow, which was to be expected when it was purchased by a billionaire who loves to play around with anything in his reach — which to him, is everything. However, Musk was correct about one thing, or at least he had the right idea when he called Twitter “a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner.” That’s exactly what Twitter should be and what discourse in general should be, yet what social media always fails to be. 

Students just like us could revive Twitter. Our generation didn’t flock to the bird app the way older generations did, perhaps because it’s easier to look at pictures and videos on Instagram and TikTok. It could be because we’ve grown up learning to be cautious of our digital footprint, and the tweets that go viral won’t always lead to college acceptances or job opportunities. The truth of the matter is that Gen Z does not use Twitter as much as older generations. We also don’t need another place to be divided or distracted — but Twitter needs us. 

Twitter has been and continues to be an echo chamber. One of the platform’s most attractive features is that it shows you tweets that the people you follow have liked, making it very easy to only see what you want to see. Musk stepping in hasn’t changed that, and probably won’t. He’s too busy tweeting about the bar and arcade at Twitter’s headquarters. 

Let’s be clear: Musk is not going to save Twitter. He may have created an opening for change. All I see on my feed — between the silly jokes and political takes — is people saying that they’re leaving Twitter, they want to leave Twitter or that they’ll stay on until they find an alternative for Twitter. They have a valid reason for leaving or threatening to leave the social media network, as Musk’s track record proves that he’s not going to make Twitter a hate-free space. His verification program gives legitimacy to the illegitimate, and even though it’s paused, it was created to make money — not to make improvements. 

The people who are quitting Twitter aren’t running to Truth Social, Trump’s social media app; they’re running away from social media as it is. They’re still on TikTok and Instagram, but they’re there for a different reason — a mindless reason, to be distracted from the hate that takes over our world through tweets and through action. Losing Twitter would mean losing a huge part of our social and cultural landscape. 

Twitter is not a “common digital town square,” and nothing is being “debated in a healthy manner.” It’s a place to see other thoughts, and maybe get mad at them and maybe agree with them. It’s a sad excuse for an exchange of ideas, but it’s the most widespread and accessible platform for our digital world and modern attention spans. 

And yet Gen Z does not participate on Twitter in the way they do on Snapchat and TikTok. Millennials dominate Twitter — those between ages 25 and 34 make up 38.5% of their membership. Meanwhile, those between 18 and 24 only make up 17.1%, the same amount as those over 50. Twitter needs college-aged students: a crucial demographic when it comes to introducing new perspectives. Twitter and social media in general create echo chambers, not just of ideologies, but of age. 

We grew up with smartphones and social media at our fingertips — we know how this works, for better or for worse. We are so good at speaking to our own generation; we took to Instagram and TikTok to get the word out to vote during the midterm elections — and and it worked. Imagine if our perspective could reach those beyond our generation, if Gen Z wasn’t just Greta Thunberg on the news every few months or Fox News talking about how college students are “ugly-fying” themselves. 

If Gen Z wants to make a change, and if Twitter wants to sustain itself, we must flock like birds to this app. Twitter is a mess and a disaster, but there’s no better time to step in than when something is at its lowest. Gen Z helped save the United States from the red wave that was predicted for this year’s midterm election. Perhaps we could save and cultivate a space for digital discourse too.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are not the views of the Washington Square News.

Contact Alexandra Cohen at [email protected].